Last year I wrote out my feelings about Lily starting school - the frustration of not being able to 'choose' and the worry of doing something wrong.
In the end, we decided not to 'fiddle the system' and temporarily change churches in order to get Lily into our first choice.
This was fine - our second choice and catchment school was a very close second. In fact, I'll admit that it was probably Matt's first choice and is so close to our home that I would have been happy with taking Lily and picking her up every day. I don't drive and so proximity has always been a key deciding factor.
At the time of writing 'Faith, trust and choosing Primary Schools' I committed to following the system, playing by the rules and trusting God with placing Lily in the right school for her all-round growth as a human being.
As today, 'allocation day' crept closer and closer I found myself feeling calmer about the whole process. We were in category 6 for our first choice, unlikely but not impossible to receive an offer and for our second choice we live a mere 0.4 miles from the school - on the same road.
We clearly had nothing to worry about. I could trust that the right place would be offered right?
Well. No. At 11:15 this morning I couldn't bear to wait any longer to receive the email and so logged on to the portal.
To discover that we hadn't been offered our first choice.
Or our second.
Or even our third or fourth choice.
No. We had been offered a school that I'd never even considered because it's 5 miles away. Now that might now seem like far, but for me with no car it would take over an hour just to get there. The thought of four hours just going to and from school fills me with dread.
"This has got to be a mistake."
"This can't be happening."
"I'm going to take out a loan and put her into a private school."
Only the presence of a best friend stopped me from crying my eyes out. My first reaction was to panic. What the hell was I going to do?
"I'm going to appeal."
Fine. That's my right. However, only 2% of reception class appeals are actually successful. I may still do this, but I'm sensible enough to know that the school was over-subscribed and allocated the places based on siblings within catchment followed by distance.
They got to 0.327 miles from the school, from what I can tell, we live just over that. We missed out by just a few houses. It doesn't change the fact that they can only have 30 pupils in a class and an appeal would likely fail.
"I'm going to go on the waiting list."
Yes. I am. This is the sensible thing to do. My child needs to have a school place, if I reject the one place I've been offered I could end up with an awful school. I'm not taking that risk and so I have accepted the place for now and will wait for further allocation rounds, things move and the situation could change.
"I'm going to check out the school I've been offered and see what it's like."
Well duh. And you know? It's a good school, recommended by friends and people I trust. If we lived closer I would have definitely considered it.
"I'm going to have faith."
Because I'm an idiot. And despite spouting off about how I'd be happy with the decision and trust in my faith the first thing I actually did when receiving the offer was doubt. I questioned how this could ever be the right place for Lily, for us as a family.
Perhaps I just need to be stronger in my resolutions?
Instead of despair I am looking at not only how we can make it work, but how it could be better than what we'd first planned:
- It's a good school, on par if not better than all our listed preferences.
- It comes highly recommended from parents we trust.
- It's in a nice enough area - appealing to my snobbier side.
- They have breakfast and after-school clubs - offering some flexible childcare options if I'm to return to work and the possibility of Matt dropping Lily off in the mornings and halving my travel time.
- The uniform is simple and doesn't include overly-expensive items like blazers and ties.
- The school lunch menu looks varied and nicer than the ones at other schools.
- A glance at newsletters on the school website show plenty of activities and a pro-active PTA.
- I no longer work at another school and so am not restricted by my work hours or logistics.
Am I convinced?
Honestly? Not yet. But I'm open to a possibility that wasn't there before and I'm praying for the best. The shock and disappointment is still pounding inside me and my brain is over-dramatically listing every potential worry and future problem - it's just the negativity isn't as overwhelming as it was a few hours a go.